The road to Rio is a long uphill ascent requiring pure grit and determination. Every four years, the Olympics fill pages in the world record books, forming bright spotlights on previously unheard of names, casting dark shadows on an individual or institutional level. I take a look inside the minds of an Olympic cyclist to understand how they both mentally prepare and unwind in the lead up to an Olympic games.
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What happens behind the scenes of an Olympic athlete? What drives their training to achieve higher climbs, faster times and ultimately, more medals? What role do basic homely comforts play in an Olympic athletes day to day?
1) Faster, faster, faster!
(The title of this section is inspired by my spin instructor)
I always love to read how athletes train for the Olympics, there is always new psychological approaches, training methods or sports technology which all hold promise of world records.
For Essex-born indoor cyclist, Laura Trott, she turned to outdoor racing during her training to keep her mentally engaged with the sport as well as to feed her competitive spirit. In interviews, Trott appears pretty normal, talking like your friend talks to you over a coffee until she talks about her racing achievements. In May 2015, Laura took one final lunge forward over the finishing line of the Milk Race to beat Katie Archibald by three thousandths of a second, later commenting in an interview ‘A win is a win, isn’t it?’.
Watch this behind-the-scenes video of Laura Trott on the road and at home.
2) Sports Psychology, mind over matter
To successfully ride the Rio road race descent, you’ve got to be mentally on point at all times.
Sports psychology plays a massive role in an athlete’s training session. How on earth does a cyclist win Tour De France, climbing ascents equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 6.8 times before going on to win an Olympic medal in Rio weeks later? Chris Froome has received specific mind-training from dedicated sports psychologists who offer tips on conditioning the inner voices that can destroy racing discipline.
The competitive spirit lasts even beyond sporting retirement. Watch this hilarious video of Chris Hoy trying to beat the Flip It score of 20 (also known as the coaster challenge that we have all grown to know and love at the pub).
3) Sport technology
Cycling has crazy amounts of money pumped into it thanks to British Cycling with sports technology gurus turning to Formula 1 for aerodynamic inspiration. Ahead of the Rio Olympics a brand new top of the range bike was built for Team GB, incredibly it was coasted with a lick of ‘go-faster’ paint which is ALSO used on Formula 1 cars. The resin was designed to be so smooth that even under a microscope it’s impossible to spot any blemishes and reduce any chance of air resistance. Unfortunately, the chemical breakdown of this resin is highly top secret so don’t be thinking you can drop into your local DIY store for your own bike.
4) Ritual reassurance
With training comes ritual and every sportsman and sportswoman have their own quirks which give them reassurance in the midst of high stress and pressure, it could be the way Geraint Thomas tucks a gel under the leg of his shorts during race or it could be Chris Froome’s affinity for coffee in the build up to a competitive race. Coffee is the go-to legal high for Olympic athletes who rely on caffeine boost to harness improved sporting performance, Chris admits to holding back drinking coffee until race day ”I save it for the racing and the days where I know I need an extra bit of motivation,’ he says. ‘On mountain stages, I prepare my own bottle that contains two espressos and a lot of sugar or honey.’
Basic rituals keep Olympic athletes reassured and feeling confident before, during and after competing.
5) Rest is KEY
The most important but often overlooked part of any training session, from road race first timer to professional TT athletes, is failing to incorporate rest can lead to fatigue during training and even risks ‘bonking’ during a ride (a cyclist term for hitting a wall).
Behind the scenes of an Olympic athlete isn’t necessarily a glamorous backdrop, Laura Trott has learnt to overcome a nasty acid reflex condition which is triggered by challenging training sessions or even competing. Laura has also talked about the struggles to turn down McDonalds during training season as well as constantly wondering when or if she should be resting.
Above all of the second guessing, putting the key into the front door in her home in Manchester brings Laura back to normality. Through rest, athletic superstars and sporting celebrities can regain some sort of normality, for me, this video of Laura chilling out at home on her sofa just sums it up.
DFS Backing Team GB
The official homeware partner for Team GB are going behind the scenes of the Rio Olympics to showcase the personalities behind the brave personas of our sporting superheroes. Our sofas are the symbol of home, we rest on it, we recuperate on it, we sit on it to tie our laces for the next training session.
If you are, like me, well and truly captured within the Rio Olympic’s bubble right now then you will definitely appreciate the entertaining videos capturing the likes of Rebecca Adlington, Chris Hoy, Adam Goodfellow, Max Whitlock and Leon Taylor both in Great British House and at their own home back in the UK. Better yet, the lovely Reggie Yates and Justin Moorhouse present the videos every step of the way. Keep up to date with the latest from Great British House here.
Nothing tells the story of pursuing an Olympic medal greater than the route of a road race. The steep incline marks the tall physical challenges which Olympic athletes aim for, the bends in the road marks the unpredictability of the future, the descent marks the gruelling pursuit towards the finishing line, where seconds make the difference between gold and silver. Our super-human athletes hold a dual personality, under the spotlight they beat records and defy the impossible but behind the scenes, they are real people who appreciate normality and home comforts.
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